Libertarian Republic Editor Austin Petersen interviewed Jennifer Grossman about a new libertarian television network being planned for a fall 2013 launch. Grossman’s ambitious project seeks to build a TV channel that does more than just compete with Fox News. Her plans to build programming based around the ideas of liberty would serve a broader audience than the more narrow mission of Fox to represent the voice of American conservativism. For now, Jennifer serves as the Senior Vice President of the Dole Nutrition Institute. But, when the network is launched, her background in politics might give her an edge over Glenn Beck’s The Blaze or the One America News Network, who declared their intentions to launch a competitor to Fox at this years Conservative Political Action Network.
But where the chief executives of One America are tied to Democrats like Harry Reid and the Democratic National Committee, Jennifer Grossman was a former Education Policy Director at the Cato Institute. She also served as a senior writer to the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform with the late Jack Kemp and was a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush from 1988-1992. Grossman believes her network fills in a space that potential competitors like Glenn Beck aren’t touching. Her idea for a libertarian lifestyle network would focus less on news and more on the concepts that living a freer life would entail. Whether it’s paleo diets, personal liberty or questioning common knowledge and cultural norms, JAG TV could be a brand new paradigm in television. Grossman’s unique background in conservative and libertarian politics is likely to be a critical factor in gaining the credibility the network will need to gain support as the voice for freedom lovers across the nation.
The Interview with JAG TV CEO below:
Austin: Jennifer, how long have you been putting together JAGTV?
Jennifer: Not long — I remember having breakfast with my old friend, Grover Norquist, on September 19th, telling him about the idea. He said “You have to present to the group!” I balked, I had just a few slides. But Grover said, folks need to know there are people way out in California doing creative things for liberty, so he poked me in the ribs and there I was, announcing a new network to the Wednesday morning meeting. A week before, I was with Arianna Huffington, my old mentor, applying lipstick in the ladies’ room and she asked “Daaaahlink, what are you doing for fun thee days?” I said I was starting a new libertarian network in my free time. So if only to save face, I knew I couldn’t turn back.
Austin: How did you get the idea for the network?
Jennifer: Because I needed it. Imagine having your own favorite robe — it’s your go-to for when you get up, and when you come home. That’s what Fox News is for me. But then you notice your robe is getting old, you still love it, but it’s starting to look ridiculous. You want another one, maybe this time, in another color, maybe in a newer style. But it doesn’t exist. So you have to go out and make it yourself.
In this case, I felt it I had no other choice but to try. I can survive without a robe — but we can’t survive, as a democracy, without having access to truthful information, and without an inclusive, intelligent, common sense, civil discussion about the future of this sacred gift that is America. I have no particular beef with Fox — I’ve been a guest on their air and have many friends there who’ve been generous with encouragment and advice on this venture. The best thing anyone could do for Fox right now would be to give it a little friendly competition, to help spark the fires of innovation — we’re not competing because we’re going after a totally different demographic, younger, less partisan, more female, more socially liberal, and more politically libertarian.
Austin: What’s going to be the point of JAGTV? Who are you trying to reach and what kind of message are you trying to send?
Jennifer: The point is to open hearts and alter minds. We’re not going to shout politics at the audience, and we’re certainly not going to hand down the dogma to tell anyone how they should think or live. We’re coming out of California — some might say, behind enemy lines — with a message of love and peace that can only come from a society based on pursuasion, not coercion; self-reliance, not entitlement; innovation not redistribution. We’re not about conspiracy theories and politics. We’re about celebrating freedom — and empowering people to pursue happiness, create, realize their potential on all levels, and help each other on the way. You own you — now what are you going to do about it?
Austin: Why do you believe that the American people are ready for a new network? Don’t they already have plenty of options?
Jennifer: Think of the media like two big parking lots — one blue, jam packed with MSNBC, PBS, NBC, CNN, etc, — and one red, that has one big bus parked in the corner. That’s Fox. And to the right of the bus is an SUV, that’s The Blaze. The rest of the parking lot is empty — lots of space to play. More importantly, we’re closer to the purple blend zone. We’re going after the vast untapped market of libertarian-leaning and libertarian-curious viewers who today have almost no relevant cable broadcast products and extremely few, high-quality outlets online. We believe most people ARE libertarians, they just don’t know it yet. JAGTV will be their “gateway drug to freedom” — a fun, addictive and ultimately mind altering product that gets you hooked until one day you’re dazed, laying on the ground, with a copy of Road to Serfdom in your hand, wondering what the hell just happened.
Austin: What are some of the challenges you face in putting together a news network that will actually be competitive?
Jennifer: Not sleeping is challenging, since I take the night shift while other team members fill in during days. Distribution is challenging, particularly at a time when the big cable carriers are actually looking for reasons to drop — not add — new networks. But we are working on some interesting options that may leapfrog us ahead of others in this space.
Austin: Who are you working with talent-wise for the network? Can you dish us some of the names of people you might choose to star in the network?
Jennifer: John Phillips and Elizabeth Imus (Don Imus’ daughter) have been on board from day one. We’ve got letters of intent from Larry Elder, Hannah Giles, Jake Head, Mark Sisson (leader of the libertarian primal diet crowd) — Gary Johnson has indicated he’s on board. Jack Hunter is someone we’d love to feature, and of course Dr. Paul is someone we’re talking to, in terms of a cable platform, and we’ve kept his folks appraised of our efforts since Day One. We’re continually having new talent reach out to us, and are in talks with some high profile hollywood names who share our vision, we all know what you risk in entertainment when you diverge from the herd.
Austin: What do you think about what Glenn Beck is doing? Aren’t you sort of duplicating efforts by trying to compete with him?
Jennifer: I think what he’s doing is unbelievable — I watch his show regularly, and frankly he’s been an inspiration — and I had the privilege of telling this to him personally recently. I was a believer in Beck back when all my conservative friends (not to mention my liberal ones) dismissed him as a flash in the pan. He’s immensely talented, authentic, and a true visionary. He’s also surrounded himself with some of the smartest people in the business. However, I still think his viewers are Fox viewers. I applaud the fact that he’s signaled a move toward libertarianism, but he needs to follow his heart, just as I have to follow mine. And if you watch his show he keeps turning to religion, and history as his default mode, and that’s not necessarily what young independents and libertarians want to watch on a regular basis.
Austin: Who are your personal heroes? Is there anyone whose work you greatly admire?
Jennifer: My father. Ayn Rand. John Mackey. Ron Paul. Rand Paul. Ted Forstmann. RIP.
While JAG TV will face a tough fight to get competitive with the big networks, it’s heartening to see that there are still freedom fighters out there willing to fight the odds to take the message of liberty to the public in as many ways as possible. Many big name libertarians are reportedly in talks with Grossman to produce shows about free markets, liberty and how to live a freer life. Would you like to see a libertarian TV network with programming aimed at entertaining and informing Americans? What libertarian pundits would you most like to see host their own show on JAG TV?